This has been a big year for me exploring books that incorporate art. I’ve found so many that I loved, and this one, a gift from my sister-in-law at Christmas, has been on my “must read” list for a long time. I love Allie Brosh, I’ve followed her career for several years now, and I’m thrilled that her book was as delightful as I had imagined. Much like Fun House, Hyberbole and a Half is a drama dressed up in clown shoes and a squeaky nose. Although much of Brosh’s work makes me giggle uncontrollably, the real meat of it deals with her own struggles with depression and self-worth.
If my life were a movie, the turning point of my depression would have been inspirational and meaningful. It would have involved wisdom-filled epiphanies about discovering my true self and I would conquer my demons and go on to live the rest of my life in happiness.
Instead, my turning point mostly hinged on the fact that I had rented some movies and then I didn’t return them for too long.
The late fees had reached the point where the injustice of paying any more than I already owed outweighed my apathy. I considered just keeping the movies and never going to the video store again, but then I remembered that I still wanted to re-watch Jumanji.
I put on some clothes, put the movies in my backpack, and biked to the video store. It was the slowest, most resentful bike ride ever.
And when I arrived, I found out they didn’t even have Jumanji in.
Just as I was debating whether I should settle on a movie that wasn’t Jumanji or go home and stare in abject silence, I noticed a woman looking at me weirdly from a couple rows over.
She was probably looking at me that way because I looked really, really depressed and I was dressed like an Eskimo vagrant.
Normally, I would have felt an instant, crushing sense of self-consciousness, but instead, I felt nothing.
I’ve always wanted not to give a fuck. While crying helplessly into my pillow for no good reason, I would often fantasize that maybe someday I could be one of those stoic badasses whose emotions are mostly comprised of rock music and not being afraid of things. And finally – finally – after a lifetime of feelings and anxiety and more feelings, I didn’t have any feelings left. I had spent my last feeling being disappointed that I couldn’t rent Jumanji.
I felt invincible.
And thus began a tiny rebellion.
I swooped out of there like the Batman and biked home in a blaze of defiant glory.
And that’s how my depression got so horrible that it actually broke through to the other side and became a sort of fear-proof exoskeleton. (p 113)
So ends Part One of the two part story about her worst eighteen months of depression. In the second section, she talks about how the feeling of invincibility faded to become a combination of boredom and a sort of horror that she would never experience feelings again. She doesn’t spare any of the journey – the loving but useless help from friends, the struggle with suicidal thoughts, the slow road back from depression to a more balanced mental health – it’s all there. Furthermore, the end is not a rainbow of recovery so much as it is a ray of hope.
A huge part of what makes her story so authentic and appealing is that she’s not fixated on the neat conclusion, but on the space in between the starting line and the finish. Her approach is light but frank and could as easily be a jumping off point for discussing these issues in a classroom or at home as it is an enjoyable coffee table read.Humor has long been used as a technique to de-stigmatize certain behaviors society has deemed off-limits for discussion, and I, for one, am completely in support of this approach. Brosh’s sense of the absurd coupled with her piercing self-examination is unsettling, but also strangely inviting. She’s the guest you invite over who has no filter, the one who manages to be awkward and scrambling and lovable at the same time.
To see more of Allie Brosh’s brilliant work, head over here.